|Choosing A Web Site Content Management System
By Michael Park
As the saying goes on the web "Content is King." There is no argument that if you are going to have an effective Internet presence you must have current, dynamic content that gives your visitors reasons to come back time and again. While content may be king there seems to be little discussion about the optimal way to manage this content for small to medium sized businesses. Have you ever noticed that when your building the web site you have plenty of helping hands but once the site is launched and the daily grind of support kicks in it becomes harder and harder to find that help. This is why it is so important to evaluate your Content Management System (CMS) for you web site in the development stages. Every web site has some form of content management system in place, except for those that never change. The CMS can be as informal as an email to the web developer or a multi-million dollar computer program that warehouses data from several different databases. In focusing on small to medium sized businesses I have decided to eliminate the big dollar systems and concentrate on the three major types of CMS's available.
The first type of CMS is the default traditional and most widely used method I call the manual update system. This usually requires sending the information to the web developer. The web developer then utilizes their FTP program and HTML coding skills to make the requested changes. The changes are then reviewed and approved by the requester. The problem with this model is that the web developer is usually a high priced contractor and not an in-house resource. This means that you end paying a hefty price for web site changes. The cost of web site changes becomes a budget issue so you end up reducing the number of changes you make to your site in turn reducing its overall value.
The second type of CMS is the WYSIWYG system. This model allows the web site owner to use one of the graphical web development tools on the market today such as FrontPage or Net Objects Fusion. These are great programs that allow you to make changes to the web site in a graphical look. The changes are simple and if you configure the software correctly you can update your web site with a few clicks of the mouse. The problem with this model is that you become dependent on the WYSIWYG tool. If you can't get to FrontPage then you can't make your change unless you resort back to our first model. But now it gets a little trickier. These WYSIWYG tools create very convoluted HTML code so manual changes can become very time consuming. Another draw-back of the model is that if your company utilizes a tool like this to create their site they are limited to the graphical templates that come with the software. You end up getting a site that looks pretty much like everybody else's. Furthermore, I think it is important for any company planning on building or revamping their web site to meet with a web development company to at least review the best practices for web development.
The final type of CMS is what I like to refer to as an integrated CMS. This type of Content Management Systems is built directly into the site during development. In order to make changes the web owner simply enters in a secure URL, logins and makes changes to the site without having to know any HTML or FTP commands. Changes are instant and all the user needs is a web browser and access to the Internet. This has been a very successful model for our company because it allows us to build web sites that empower the web owners. Web owners can make changes to their sites as often as they like without the need for a high priced web developer. Of course the cost of a site with an integrated CMS will be a little higher but the overall cost of ownership of the site will be dramatically reduced over time.
Regardless of the model you choose web site owners must acknowledge that their web site does come with a Content Management System installed. An educated web site owner will ensure that their site has a CMS that allows them to get the most out their web site.